Moraine Valley Community College trustees are considering banning all tobacco products and creating a policy that would divorce state law, which currently governs all tobacco-related citations.
Moraine Valley currently has nine designated smoking areas on the main campus in Palos Hills. According to state law, anyone caught smoking outside the designated area or 15 feet from an entrance is subject to a $100 fine with $150 overdue fee.
During an October board meeting last Wednesday, MVCC Wellness Coordinator Lisa Wright proposed banning tobacco outright and reducing the fine to $30 with a $5 overdue fee. Wright’s proposal was supported by 291 of 324 staff and faculty members who were surveyed.
“When we surveyed the college we had a pretty good representation across all areas of the college,” Wright said.
Moraine trustees questioned how students responded to the survey. Wright informed the trustees that the students were not included in the survey but were placed into small 10-person focus groups.
“We sat down with the institutional research and planning group to create the focus group questions to limit it and make sure we are targeting the questions to get the feedback we needed to move forward.” she said.
If approved, the ban would go into effect in the fall, 2014. Moraine Trustee Joseph Murphy questioned the motives behind banning tobacco on campus.
“Is the motivation to get smokers to quit or to protect the non-smokers?” Murphy asked, after drawing a comparison between New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban soda, salt and other fatty foods. “We are talking about young adults that have the freedom of choice and I think it’s going to be impossible to enforce.”
Trustees Murphy and Tom Cunningham questioned the healthcare cost of approving the proposed tobacco-free program, saying students who choose to smoke must deal with the risks and costs associated with smoking.
“If you can’t enforce our current policy then why try to enforce it when it becomes more restricted?” Murphy asked. “I hate smoking, but I don’t want a kid to lose money for books because of a fine he got for smoking.”